• DetectionSpeedy terahertz-based system could detect explosives

    By Larry Hardesty

    Terahertz spectroscopy, which uses the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light, is a promising security technology because it can extract the spectroscopic “fingerprints” of a wide range of materials, including chemicals used in explosives. Spectroscopic system with chip-scale lasers cuts detection time from minutes to microseconds.

  • DetectionCoded apertures improves, shrinks mass spectrometers for field use

    A modern twist on an old technology could soon help detect rogue methane leaks, hidden explosives, and much more. Mass spectrometers were invented in the 1930s, and they are still typically the size of an oven or refrigerator. Inherent hurdles to miniaturization have made it difficult to use them outside of a laboratory. Researchers are using software to dramatically improve the performance of chemical-sniffing mass spectrometers. With the help of modern data analytics, researchers have demonstrated a technology using a so-called “coded aperture” that promises to shrink these devices while maintaining their performance.

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  • Explosives detectionSniffing out a dangerous vapor for detecting fuel leaks, fuel-based explosives

    Alkane fuel is a key ingredient in combustible material such as gasoline, airplane fuel, oil — even a homemade bomb. Yet it is difficult to detect and there are no portable scanners available that can sniff out the odorless and colorless vapor. Engineers have developed a new type of fiber material for a handheld scanner that can detect small traces of alkane fuel vapor, a valuable advancement that could be an early-warning signal for leaks in an oil pipeline, an airliner, or for locating a terrorist’s explosive.

  • TerrorismSuicide bomb detector moves close to commercialization with Sandia engineer’s help

    On the chilling list of terrorist tactics, suicide bombing is at the top. Between 1981 and 2015, an estimated 5,000 such attacks occurred in more than 40 countries, killing about 50,000 people. The global rate grew from three a year in the 1980s to one a month in the 1990s to one a week from 2001 to 2003 to one a day from 2003 to 2015. R3 Technologies and a group of other small businesses are developing a way to prevent suicide attacks by detecting concealed bombs before they go off. R3 found a partner in Sandia sensor expert JR Russell who has helped bring the company’s Concealed Bomb Detector, or CBD-1000, close to commercialization over the past two years.

  • Explosives detectionNew sensor rivals dogs in detecting explosives

    Dogs have been used for decades to sniff out explosives, but now a University of Rhode Island scientist and his team have come up with another way to detect bombs: sensors. The scientist has developed a sensor that can detect explosives commonly used by terrorists. One of these explosives is triacetone triperoxide, or TATP. Triacetone triperoxide has been used by terrorists worldwide, from the 2001 “shoe bomber” Richard Reid to the suicide bombers who attacked residents of Paris in November. The explosive is relatively easy to make with chemicals that can be bought at pharmacies and hardware stores, attracting little attention from authorities.

  • Nuclear proliferationSeismologists "hear" the nuclear explosions in North Korea

    International experts are far from convinced that North Korea actually conducted its first H-bomb test, which was reported by the country last week.Seismology alone cannot tell whether it was a hydrogen bomb or not, but seismologists say that what emerges from the existing data is that last week’s seismic events in North Korea were slightly smaller than a similar event in 2013.

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  • IEDsRemote-controlled robot inspects suitcase bombs

    Abandoned items of luggage are frequently found at airports and train stations. This is a case for the emergency services, which have to assume that these items might contain bombs. They must assess the potential threat quickly, avert any possible danger, and preserve evidence for criminal proceedings. In the future, police will have the support of a remote-controlled sensor system as they go about their duties. Researchers are developing this sensor suite in cooperation with industry partners and criminal investigation authorities.

  • Forensic seismologyForensic seismology tested on 2006 munitions depot explosion in Baghdad

    Seismometers were developed to record earthquakes, but then they turned out to be useful for monitoring nuclear tests, and now people are using them in all kinds of creative ways. Seismologists could distinguish, mortars, rockets, improvised explosive devices, helicopters, and drones from four miles away. In 2005 and 2006 ten seismometers were installed in northern and northeastern Iraq to study the seismic properties of the Earth’s crust in that area so that it would be possible to quantify the yield of nearby earthquakes or nuclear tests. They proved useful in identifying conventional explosions as well.

  • Explosives detectionDetecting, identifying explosives with single test

    A new test for detecting multiple explosives simultaneously has been developed. The proof-of-concept sensor is designed quickly to identify and quantify five commonly used explosives in solution to help track toxic contamination in waste water and improve the safety of public spaces.

  • Bomb detectionBomb detectors fraudster ordered to pay £1.2 million

    Gary Bolton, a convicted fraudster who made millions selling fake bomb detectors around the world, has been ordered by a court to pay more than £1 million. In August 2013 Bolton, 49, from Chatham in Kent, was sentenced to seven years in jail for the sale of more than 1,000 useless detectors that he claimed could track down bombs, drugs, ivory, and money. Bolton was one of several defendants convicted for their part in fake bomb detector scams. In 2013, James McCormick, a British businessman, was convicted of having made millions in profits from selling fake bomb detectors to Iraq, Georgia, and several other countries.

  • AviationTSA agents find record number of guns in carry-on luggage at airports

    TSA agents discovered 67 guns in carry-on luggage during the week which ended 17 September. The tally for the week broke an earlier record of 65 firearms found during one week in May 2013. TSAofficers found nearly 1,900 firearms in carry-on luggage between 1 January and 31 August 2015. This year is thus on track to see a 28 percent spike in the number of firearms found compared to the 2,212 guns — an average of about 40 a week — discovered by TSA agents in 2014.

  • Explosives detection X-ray Scanning Rover offers a new level of explosives detection

    From conflict zones to airports to sporting events, bombs pose dangers for innocent civilians as well as the bomb technicians who regularly risk their lives to investigate suspicious objects and render the devices safe. Technology solutions can help first responders to see hidden dangers. To this end, the DHS S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) is developing the X-Ray Scanning Rover (XSR) to be a responder’s eyes. It quickly and accurately scans packages and bags for leave-behind improvised explosive devices (LBIED) while keeping responders out of harm’s way. Unlike most existing scanners that use pulsed X-ray energy for detection, the XSR robot features a continuous, fan-shaped operating X-ray beam, permitting a higher degree of penetration through dense packaging.

  • ExplosivesCleaning explosives pollution with plants

    Biologists have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives. The researchers have unraveled the mechanism of TNT toxicity in plants, raising the possibility of a new approach to explosives remediation technology. TNT has become an extensive global pollutant over the last 100 years and there are mounting concerns over its toxicity to biological systems.

  • Airport securityAirport body scanners fail to provide promised security

    Since 2008, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has spent $160 million on scanners to identify passengers which may be carrying weapons. These scanners, however, do not perform as well as was originally believed.Independent audits have found that the system provides weak protection against determined adversaries.A display of the mock weapons and explosives whichthat investigators were able to get through the scanners included various size folding knives, a kitchen knife, explosive-less hand grenades, a handled awl, a lighter, handguns, ammunition, a shotgun shell, various bludgeons, and a nunchaku.

  • LandminesNew 3-D camera technology to uncover hidden landmines

    It is estimated there are 110 million landmines buried across the world, with the potential to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children for decades to come. Yet landmine detection techniques have barely changed since the Second World War. The UN estimates that, using current technology, it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the estimated 110 million landmines situated in seventy countries. Researchers are exploring new landmine detection technologies.